LGBT Movies: A Different Story (1978)

This one’s rough. A gay man marries a lesbian for a green card. They soon realize they are attracted to each other. Bisexuality is not discussed in A Different Story. Neither is pansexuality or sexual fluidity. Stella (Meg Foster) and Albert (Perry King) seem transformed into heterosexuals by the power of love. The Gay Activists Alliance was not amused. Neither were most critics.

Director Paul Aaron backpedaled in interviews. “I don’t believe for an instant that someone who is attracted to males can just shut that attraction off…. You can be very much in love with a wife or lover and still have extracurricular affairs of whatever kind… [But] don’t give up the possibility for change. You can, possibly, find a situation in which the person who is your best friend is also the person with whom you make love.” So, bisexuality still exists… as an extracurricular activity? That message isn’t much better.

Aaron and his screenwriter, Henry Olek, see the queer dating scene as a depressing place. Albert’s exes are manipulative older men. Stella’s ex is an abusive neurotic. But once they’ve wed the story runs out of ideas. Stella quits her job to become a housewife. Albert works long hours and develops a wandering eye. The film may hate homosexuals but it paints straight life as deadly dull.

Let’s take a look in my spoiler filled recap.

Act One: Will and Grace

Scene One: Mansion
BAD EX-BOYFRIEND: I’m selling the house and leaving Albert. Nya ha ha!
ALBERT (kept boy): I’ve nowhere to go. It’ll take weeks to find a new daddy.
STELLA (a real estate agent): Well, you can’t squat here. Stay at my apartment for the night.

Scene Two: Stella’s Apartment
STELLA: Lock up when you leave.
ALBERT: I could clean house, cook dinner or give you a makeover?
STELLA: I don’t need a house boy.
BAD GIRLFRIEND: Stella, who is this!!! Are you cheating on me? I can’t live without you!!!
STELLA: This is Albert. I guess he’s my new roommate.

Scene Three: Stella’s Kitchen
STELLA: Help! My parents are coming for dinner. AND I DON’T KNOW HOW TO COOK!
ALBERT: A woman who can’t cook? And a man who can? CRAZY!
(Albert makes the dinner and gives Stella the credit. The film treats this like a BIG DEAL.)

Act Two: The Odd Couple

Scene Four: A scheme
BAD EX-BOYFRIEND: Come back to me or I’ll call immigration. Nya ha ha!
ALBERT: Screw him. I’ll leave town.
STELLA: I have a better idea.
OFFICIANT: By the power vested in me I now pronounce you man and wife.

Scene Five: Baby
STELLA: I baked you a cake. You inspired me to learn a womanly skill!
ALBERT: I’m so proud!
(They smear cake on each other and have sex.)
SINGER: “It’s a Different Story!”
STELLA: I’m pregnant.

Act Three: Father Knows Best

Scene Six: Bad Bis
BAD EX-GIRLFRIEND: How could you leave me for HIM!
(Points a gun at Stella. Then breaks down crying.)
FASHION GAY: Albert I want to feature your designs in my fashion show!
STELLA (now a bored housewife): Albert, are you cheating on me with fashion gay?
ALBERT (has a moustache now): No. I’m cheating on you with A WOMAN!
STELLA: I WANT A DIVORCE!
(Nearly runs him over as she drives off.)

Scene Seven: Happy Ending?
ALBERT: I quit my job! I love you! I need you! Say you forgive me!
(Albert crashes his motorcycle into a tree.)
STELLA: I guess I forgive you. But now we’re both unemployed.
SINGER: “Sing while the music plays! This soundtrack will launch my music career!”

Bi The Way

Paul Aaron… makes the kind of debut that ought to be a swan song.*

Janet Maslin, New York Times

And once again we lose. The straights have made their movie about us at our expense.

Bridget Overton, The Lesbian Tide

It was so far ahead of its time that it is almost still too soon to release it.

Perry King, 2005 interview

Positives? I like Meg Foster. And we could always use more bisexual representation.

In 1969’s The Gay Deceivers two straight men pretend to be a gay couple to dodge the draft. An army inspector investigates so they have to keep up the charade. They never develop feelings for each other. They barely tolerate the flamboyant gays in their neighborhood. The film would inspire a flock of stories about straight men in disguise. (Cue the Transformers theme.)

A Different Story is too dull to hate watch. I dug it up out of curiosity. I’m happy to bury it again. For a better variation on this theme try 1998’s Bedrooms and Hallways. The gay identifying protagonist falls for a woman and briefly panics. He never says the word “bisexual.” But he continues to treat his gay friends with respect.

You can find more of my reviews on The Avocado and Letterboxd. My podcast, Rainbow Colored Glasses, can be found here.

(*Director Paul Aaron continued to find work. The juiciest credit on his imdb page is co-producer for Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.)